Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Even though it tends to inaugurate the rain-soaked deluge that is London’s autumn, Frieze is, in many ways, a spring of rebirth for the contemporary art world. An unmissable event on the calendar, the period of Frieze London marks an annual explosion of brilliant, influential art shows around the city, after the summer’s relative paucity.
One of the highlights of this seasonal cultural hotbed is a group show at London’s Hayward Gallery, one of the last at the gallery before it closes in September 2015 for renovations. Named “MIRRORCITY,” after the dual realms of the real and the digital colliding in the English capital, the exhibition brings together 23 London artists to explore the very much quotidian, yet fundamental effects of the digital age on our lives. “If we think about the fact that we are constantly on the Internet, social media, we are much more constantly connected with the other parts of the world. But at the same time, we are very much present in physical space,” the curator of exhibition, Stephanie Rosenthal, explained.
“MIRRORCITY” is a very different beast from 2013’s radical, social-media fuelled “Big Data Munich,” and the Barbican’s “Digital Revolution”–which spanned from cutting-edge technology, to film, music, gaming and design–earlier this year. While “MIRRORCITY” may be constrained to art, a plethora of mediums including film, sculpture, installation, and performance will be on view. “What I always make as a big point towards this show is that it is really a lot about the present. I don’t feel that any of these works talk about the future. I think they talk about the conditions that we are living in right now in the 21st century,” clarified Rosenthal, who has been chief curator at the Hayward, one of London’s most dynamic contemporary art spaces, since 2007.
In preparation for “MIRRORCITY,” she visited over 100 artists’ studios to explore and research about how they are contending with the convergence of the real, the imagined and the virtual. “For me, that’s quite an interesting development because very often artists are thought of as visionaries, here to tell us what the future is like,” the curator said. “But what I found out is that during studio visits, a lot of artists are struggling with the present, dealing with what actually happens at the moment: this totally new access to images and information, ways of communicating and what that means.”
Among the highlights is Lindsay Seers’ captivating multimedia installation in an upturned ship that was inspired by a photograph of her great, great Uncle who was once a sailor. Seers explores memory, finding fluid connections and coincidences between people and places. Anne Hardy brings some of her meticulously constructed interiors, made from objects and materials she finds on the streets near her east London studio, unbalancing reality with her fictional spaces. While Susan Hiller, an American who has lived in London for over 40 years, combines audio-visual data from the Big Bang with supposed eyewitness accounts of extraterrestrial sightings. There will also be a reworked version of Turner Prize-winning Laure Prouvost’s 2010 installation “The Artist,” questioning what an artist should be. Then, completing this nuanced blend of newcomers and veterans, there will be a series of performance-based works, such as Lloyd Corporation’s living statues–including a street vendor and sign holder–and a specially produced newspaper by writer Tom McCarthy.
Tokyo may always offer mind-bending innovation, and New York the avant-garde of technological integration, but London is a particular kind of digital city. “London is so heterogeneous, with so many layers. For me, Paris has a very clear image: what Paris is, what Paris represents. For me, London has always been a city where there are so many different cultures, languages, events happening. Like the rhizomatic thinking of Deleuze, we’re invited to think of it in terms of networks, in-between spaces. In this sense, I like to compare London to the digital. It’s more a metaphor for what thinking in a digital age means. It’s much more beyond thinking about technology or techniques and thinking about actually what these technologies open up,” said Rosenthal.
“I think we develop at an enormous speed, but it happens in a very fluid way. So, I think we all, more and more, got used to it without actually stepping back, and asking: What does that actually mean?” suggested Rosenthal. “Instead of saying you have to cross the mirror to go to another reality, now we have the possibility to live in different realities, because the iIternet is a digital space in which we inhabit, and it has a real impact on our lives and the world.” It is this precipice that “MIRRORCITY” wonderfully captures, while making the robust argument that while the disembodiment with the digital is inevitable, we still remain alive to the carnal realities of the body.
“MIRRORCITY” at London’s Hayward Gallery runs through January 4, 2015.